It’s hardly a stretch to see the similarities between Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle, the switch-hitting New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame center fielder.
To begin with, they both hail from small towns, came to the Major League at the ripe age of 19, are powerfully built with race-horse foot speed, and can swat a baseball more than 400 feet.
Yet what makes Trout and Mantle stand apart is that rare ability to do everything extremely well.
That’s why LeBron James, the Miami Heat small forward seeking his third straight NBA title, is widely regarded as the best basketball player in the world.
Still, driving a baseball a long distance is what fans remember and why they flock to the ballpark.
But there are subtle aspects of the game that often go unnoticed like taking an extra base, hitting behind the runner, stealing a base, throwing out a runner or turning a would-be extra-base hit into an out with an eye-popping defensive gem.
Trout, the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder drafted in the first round (25th pick) in 2009 by the Angels, like James, is seen as the finest player in the game, and like his hoop counterpart, feels there is room to improve.
This past weekend the Angels (28-21) hosted Kansas City for three games and trail the first-place Oakland Athletics in the American League West by one and a half games.
In Sunday’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory, Trout, named the American League Rookie of the Year in 2012 after he smacked 30 homers, with 83 runs batted in, 129 runs scored, 49 stolen bases, 27 doubles, eight triples, and a .326 batting average, walked twice, doubled in a run during a three-run seventh inning for his 34th RBI, then later scored and is hitting .280.
In Saturday’s 7-4, 13-inning loss, Trout drilled his 10th homer to deep center field, singled, scored a run, committed only his second error when a ball went off his glove as he came rushing in to snare it, but then turned in a outstanding catch when he raced to the wall, leaped, nabbed the ball and saved an extra-base hit.
Early in the contest, Trout, from Millville, New Jersey, three inches taller than Mantle at 6-foot-2, and 35 pounds heavier at 230, drew praise from Eric Karros, the Fox baseball analyst.
“You can talk all you want, but the player people come to see is Mike Trout,’’ said the one-time Dodgers’ first baseman, who holds the Los Angeles home run record with 270. “He can do everything on the baseball field. There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s just amazing.’’
In the Angels’ 6-1 win over the Royals on Friday, Trout cracked a 444-foot homer, singled, and threw out a base runner at third base.
A two-time All-Star, Trout, coming off a season in which he slapped 27 homers, with 97 RBIs, 33 stolen bases, 39 doubles, nine triples, 109 runs scored, and a .323 batting average, is the type of player fans flock to see because, as Karros correctly pointed out, is capable of doing something truly extraordinary.
Like every player, Trout’s goal each season is to make the playoffs and win the World Series. So far, Trout hasn’t made the postseason, but the Halos are off to a strong start and the future appears bright.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.